How does homophily affect your hiring decisions? You’re probably asking yourself what in the world is homophily. Have you ever heard the expression “Birds of a feather flock together?” Well, homophily is like the birds together.
I define homophily as a similarity that causes individuals to communicate more effectively due to sub-conscience attributes of knowing each other’s experiences. The individuals share common meanings, beliefs, and mutual understandings that go beyond the external far into the internal meanings of life. Sharing common ground helps us to relate easier to individuals similar to ourselves.
For example, if I was from a farming community in Idaho, I went to Harvard University and participated in rowing as a sport, I would be more likely to look for someone with a similar background when recruiting or when hiring someone to replace me, work with me, as I know the life experience combination has worked well for me. Someone with a totally different experience may not even get the opportunity to be looked at or recruited.
On the other hand, without homophily how do we communicate, relate, understand, or form a friendship? What common ground do we have?
Communication is uncomfortable as we can’t relate to experiences, backgrounds, life –styles and so forth that do not match our own. During your company’s hiring and recruiting events, I ask that you be aware of the type of individuals you are interviewing and make a cognitive effort to being open to difference and diversity. Don’t allow homophily to break-down or put barriers to communication with non-similar people than you. Call awareness to homophily "informed risk taking" if you will.
You may be aware of your company’s hiring tendencies, which are natural and can be sub-conscience and yet you are willing to try and understand someone different than yourself. Examples of difference include demographic characteristics like: age, gender, ethnicity, sub-cultures, education, disability, intelligence, experience, language, hand-shakes and attitudes.
Remember that our job as individuals is to hire the best for our companies. Keeping ourselves knowledgeable and educated about our company’s needs and interests will help us make the right hiring decisions. Don’t be afraid of difference, be open to it.